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Consumer Safety

US FDA restores ban on lead in hair dyes

by Britt E. Erickson
October 17, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 38


A person applying hair dye in a plastic bottle to the scalp to darken gray hair.
Credit: Shutterstock
The US Food and Drug Administration has reinstated a ban on lead acetate in hair dyes used to gradually darken gray hair.

The US Food and Drug Administration plans to enforce a ban on lead acetate in hair dyes beginning in January 2023, the agency announced Oct. 7. The FDA finalized the ban in October 2018 in response to a 2017 petition from environmental and public health groups. But the agency put the ban on hold after receiving objections from Combe, the manufacturer of Grecian Formula, which formerly contained lead acetate. The FDA now says that the objections do not justify changing the rule. The ban will go into effect Jan. 6, 2022, and the FDA will start enforcing it a year later to give companies time to deplete their stocks and reformulate their products. The agency approved the use of lead acetate in hair dyes in 1980. The chemical was once commonly used in men’s hair dyes to gradually darken gray hair, but most manufacturers have replaced it with less toxic ingredients like bismuth citrate. The FDA states that “new data available since lead acetate was permanently listed demonstrate that there is no longer a reasonable certainty of no harm from the approved use of this color additive.”


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